Mariners Analysis

Thursday, March 31, 2005

April Fools and Sidd Finch

With April Fools near, I would expect a few "Griffey Traded to M's" or "Beltre sent to Minors" articles tomorrow.

However, all would pale in comparison to the greatest April Fools baseball article of all time- "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch"

For those who are too young to remember, the NY Times has a nice article on Sidd and the Sports Illustrated article- link (registration required, but you are a fool not to already have one)

"It was 20 years ago this week that Sports Illustrated ran one of its most celebrated articles, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch" - in which George Plimpton crafted a 14-page exposé on a bizarre, out-of-nowhere Mets phenom who fired baseballs at a stupefying 168 miles an hour. "Crafted," of course, is what Plimpton truly did - the story was pure fiction. It instantly became its generation's "War of the Worlds," leaving thousands of frenzied fans either delighted at the April Fools' prank or furious at being duped."

Baseball Sunday- Yanks vs. Red Sox. Then Opening day Monday for the M's.

Wow, we are close...

M's making poor moves

The M's front office is having a crazy time deciding on their roster, and I don't like some of the recent moves. Along with insisting on taking 12 pitchers on Opening Day, the front office has left questions regarding SS and the outfield.

Let's look at some of the recent moves:

Jeff Nelson- I didn't want the M's to keep Jeff Nelson last year, when they were coming off a 93 win season. He was old, and clearly losing control and velocity. Nelson of course signed with Texas, where he was both ineffective and hurt. He displayed exactly the qualities the M's feared when they thought about bringing him back. So after losing 99 games last year, what in the world can Nelson possibly bring to the table that would cause you to put him on the roster? He's 38 years old, and is a one-year option at best. I guess Shiggy and Eddie can't contribute enough experience in the bullpen, so we need to add an aging reliever who had a terrible spring?? It's just makes no sense to me.

Backup to Reese- we have wondered all spring who will back up our most injury prone infielder. The M's kept a couple of marginal fielders around, and now have sent them down. We still have no idea who is starting Opening Day? Reese still can't play 4 days before the opener. Hargrove has to be worried, right? There must be a move coming, because right now one of the most obvious situations has been ignored.

Abraham Nunez- claimed off waivers from KC. Let's get this straight. The M's have a solid outfield in Winn, Ichiro and Reed. They have a player in Ibanez who WANTS to play the outfield. So they claim Nunez from the powerhouse Royals who can't find a place for him?? We were supposed to have a glut in outfielders, and the M's send down guys like Strong who would seem to be ideal 25th man candidates. Cheap, runs well, promoted from within organization. Reed and Ichiro would seem to be long-term outfielders. The M's have TWO major league LF's on the roster. What's the thinking here?

George Sherrill- pitched well last year in majors. Apparently not enough for Bavasi and crew.

We have to assume more moves are coming before Monday. I guess we give Bavasi the benefit of the doubt until the Opener, because recent moves are simply baffling.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sele and Nelson officially make team

For those of us that want the M's to do well this year, the fact both pitchers make the team reminds us how much work remains.

Our starting pitching is exactly the same as last years 99 loss team that ended the season, except we've replaced Ryan Franklin with Aaron Sele. The same Sele who was in so much demand during the offseason he had to sign a minor-league contract. We can only hope Sele is a short-term band-aid until Felix joins the club.

And Nelson is finished as an effective reliever. Does anyone think he will pitch effectively this year? I don't. I thought the M's did the right thing when they jettisoned Rhodes and Nelson last year. Now we bring him back, after an ineffective year in Texas? The guys 37 and coming off an injury. What are they hoping, they can squeeze one more year out of him? I'm not sure he ends the year in a uniform.

It's not a surprise, we knew they were making the team, but today still reminds us how much Bavasi has ignored the pitching.

Monday, March 28, 2005

M's roster nearly set- no surprises

With Opening Day drawing near, the M's 25-man roster is almost filled. I have to say that other than Ichiro's amazing Spring, this has been an extremely boring Cactus League camp. There have been ZERO trade rumors regarding the M's, and no real standouts among the marginal players attempting to make the team. I'm not sure if boring is good, but there have been very few surprises this spring.

A quick look at the Opening Day Lineup shows-

1- Ichiro
2- Reed
3- Beltre
4- Sexson
5- Boone
6- Ibanez
7- Winn
8- Olivo
9- Reese

No suprise here. This is the exact lineup many predicted two months ago. The only mystery was Reed or Winn in the 2-hole. Looks like Reed is going to get the nod, which is a good decision by Hargrove. Winn has performed well as a 7 hitter, and Reed has more upside. Get him as many at-bats as you can, and let's see what this guy can do over a season.

The decision to send Lopez down and make Reese your starting SS was obviously made over the weekend when Lopez was sent down. I still am stumped as to what the plan is when Reese gets hurt, and wouldn't be surprised to see Lopez up with the club before May.

For pitchers, we have a rotation of Moyer, Meche, Mads and Sele. No surprise here, and Piniero as expected is out with an injury. No one would have been shocked to see this lineup two months ago.

For relief pitching, again no major changes. It looks like Ryan is definitely in the 'pen, which is a relief to many fans. However, we have a huge question mark regarding our closer, "Every-day Eddie." We knew before the season he was a question mark, and a week before the season he is still a question mark.

With zero trades, Bucky out and no fringe prospects stepping up, is Dobbs making the team the only surprise?

Those hoping Willie doesn't make it, or Sele getting cut, or Winn getting traded... it just never happened.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

M's plans for Lopez

So pretend you are Bavasi for a minute (you are a foot taller and have no hair) and you need to make decisions with your new manager on the M's roster. One of the hardest decisions right now is what to do with Jose Lopez.

Before Spring Training, the common wisdom was play Reese at SS and send Lopez down to AAA for a year of experience. However, a couple of things have changed the M's thinking-
* Pokey Reese has reminded everyone just what they are getting with that outstanding glove. A light bat that is injury prone and a little flakey. The M's have to really ask themselves if the current offense can carry a .215 SS (something like that) all year. Pokey could very well have a Cirillo-like year at the plate.
* Lopez looks better in Spring Training than expected.

M's fans have been wondering all year what the M's brass plan to do when Reese gets hurt. Given his injury history, it's not a matter of if, but when. Also, if you pinch-hit for Reese in a close game, who replaces him in the field? Spiezio? Willie?

The M's have a bit of a flawed everyday lineup problem with Reese. If you play Reese every day, you have to live with his light bat. In a head-to-head battle, Hargrove just might prefer less defense with Lopez to at least a possible upside in power. Obviously there is no upside with Reese at the plate- no power and light average is a given.

The one think Bavasi cannot do is bring Lopez up with the club and have him sit around on the bench and wait for Reese to get hurt. Everyone agrees Lopez does no good on the bench.

The logical thing then is to put Reese on the bench. With Boone struggling at 2b, finding playing time for all of them shouldn't be a problem. BUT, Hargrove likes to stick to a set-lineup. In the past he hasn't shown the kind of skilled roster management that keeps your bench involved and gives guys days off.

Something has to give. Either Hargrove needs to play his bench more often, or Lopez needs to start in AAA.

You can rest assured Bavasi and Hargrove are having this discussion right now.

If it were up to me, I would have never put myself in this position as GM. I have no idea what they will decide. Let's hope as fans things work out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Gammons on Bonds

Many of us believe Barry Bond's performance over the last few years has been nothing short of phenomenal. He has been the very definition of MVP- he makes his team and others around him better.

Yet Peter Gammons seems to believe the Giants will be ok without him- espn link

This seems to run counter to everything we've been told. How can you lose the greatest player in baseball and not see a huge dropoff?

If Bonds is out for any length of time, the Giants FO is going to be in a serious bind. They created this team to win NOW. They signed a ton of veterans all on the principle of winning short-term, knowing Bonds has a short shelf-life. If he misses serious time, it puts the entire team in danger of looking like last years Mariners.

You know, OLD.

The only saving grace for the Giants is that someone has to win that division. Arizona? Dodgers? Lots of questions. It would seem the division is wide open.

But regardless, watching the Giants play this season w/o Bonds will tell us just how important he really has been to past Giant's teams.

I'm guessing the 2005 Giants won't remind anyone of the 2001 Mariners after they lost Alex. Instead, I see a team struggling to play .500 ball. Regardless of what Gammons says.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Poor Bonds

Bonds has knee surgery, and today comes out and tells reporters he might miss the season. The Giants front office all week has been saying he might miss the opener, but Bonds has apparently clarified for us that they mean NEXT season.

I'm sure most of us see this for what it is- Bonds attempt to deflect attention from his steroids use and overall skeletons.

This week, Bonds has the fallout of the congressional hearings, more leaked testimony, an ex-girlfriend make headlines and now possible tax issues about autograph revenue.

His homelife has to suck a little. His wife can't like hearing about Bonds buying a house for a women, and his kids hate seeing Mom and Dad fight. Meanwhile the guy has to face more rehab after his 3rd knee surgery in three months, and then he's got this Ruth thing to deal with...

He's going to get paid his umpteen million dollars this year no matter what he does, so Bonds tries to play the sympathy angle. I'll just sit out, collect my millions and let some of this stuff blow over. Hopefully someone will feel sorry for me.

He can try and be nice, but few will buy it.

I know I'm not. I'd just as soon see Bonds go away and hope he never takes the field again.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Steroids fallout continues

I notice some people seem to be sick of the steroids issue. There also are people who think Congress should have no business investigating steroid use in sports. And finally, there are actually people who still want to give Bonds and McGwire the benefit of the doubt when it comes to steroids.

What's more interesting right now as a baseball fan? The fact the single most recognizable record in baseball (home runs) is in doubt? Or the fact Jeff Nelson has a spring ERA over 7?

People will continue to talk about steroids, but it will diminish when the season starts. It's human nature.

-Rumor has it McGwire is being investigated by 60 Minutes for his steroid use. Think that has anything to do with the non-answers he gave last Thursday? The evidence will grow against McGwire.

- Bonds has an ex-girlfriend fingering him for using steroids. Bonds looks to almost certainly be found guilty of steroid use before his playing days are over. She says he gave her $80,000, he says not. This will easily be proven one way or the other...

Baseball ignored the steroid issue for too long, and now it's paying the price.

It is simple, and is the way it should be.

Friday, March 18, 2005

McGwire tells truth

Mark McGwire took the stand yesterday, under oath, and told the truth. Did Sammy Sosa? No idea. We know he used a corked bat, but no proof on steroids. It was funny watching him pretend he can't speak English though. Canseco? Admitted he took steroids, and has changed his tune on their use, acknowledging they are bad. Good for him. Congratulate him for doing it; would you rather have him continue to preach their benefits? In one of the funniest moments, he remarked he must have been the only baseball player who ever took steroids.

Why did Mark McGwire tell the truth? Because he is a good person, and a bad liar. Unlike other people in the room, he knew he couldn't stand up there and lie. It would hurt him personally to do it, and it would be obvious to everyone watching he was lying. Much like Giambi, he understands he did something wrong, and now wishes he hadn't. He wants to come clean, but for different reasons, neither can.

So both Giambi and McGwire have to dance around the question regarding their steroid use. As Giambi's brother said, you'd have to be an idiot not to understand he (Jason) all but admitted as much in his press conference this year. But for contract reasons, he couldn't come right out and say it ($82 million reasons why he can't).

I know it shocks Tony La Russa (article ) to see McGwire refusing to answer a question he has already answered before. However, it is quite simple for the rest of us. We understand there is a world of difference to deny steroid use when a reporter comes by your locker, and quite another to do it under oath in front of Congress. McGwire is a good person who would feel sick for years knowing he lied. Coming right after parents talking about losing their child, there is simply no way McGwire was going to lie about his steroids use. Bonds could look you in the eye and ramble on about Lord knows what, but McGwire doesn't have that ability. He wasn't going to lie, and he doesn't want to become the new poster child for steroid use, so he simply refuses to answer the question. It's quite simple.

Just about everybody reading this site knows who Arnold Schwarzenegger is. A premier bodybuilder during the '70's, he denied repeatedly ever using steroids. As a casual lifter in the '80's, I read his books and followed some of this workout advice. It was common knowledge among everyone in the sport he took them. I knew it, his fans knew it, his competitors knew it. There was no testing in those days, and Arnold grew to a size never before seen.

Today he admits he used steroids. Time has passed, and for a number of reasons he was able to admit the truth publicly.

In time, McGwire will do the same.

If you think McGwire didn't use steroids, or feel you don't have enough information, you are simply incredibly naive.


The only reason baseball has the current policy in place, as weak as it is, can be attributed to public pressure and Congress.

Sad but true.

In the first year of steroids testing, when everybody and their dog knew testing was taking place, almost 100 players couldn't bring themselves to stop taking it. That works out to roughly 3 players per team. Any guesses on which M's players were on the juice?

McGwire used steroids. He told you that yesterday.

Were you listening?

Or simply don't care...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Congress and steroids

Every one seems to have an opinion on the Congressional hearings set to begin tomorrow. The simple answer is that having Congress getting involved is good, but it's disappointing it had to come to this.

From a pure entertainment point of view, the hearings should provide plenty of late-night talk show jokes. Imagine Jose Canseco tomorrow.

He's got a book detailing his steroids use, yet he plans to invoke the 5th amendment? That should prove interesting.

Might Mark McGwire come clean regarding his steroids use? Or will he continue to lie, and let Tony be his publicist and public apologist?

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, the fact is baseball pretended it was a monopoly that didn't have to worry about rules like you and me. Oh wait, baseball is a monopoly. But anyway, baseball still sticks to the sorry claim that since steroids weren't illegal in baseball during the '90's, all of this is silly.

Which of course would be true if we allowed Don and Bud to decide all the rules in this country. But since we don't, and our government had declared taking steroids without a doctors prescription is illegal, it actually does matter. See guys, when we (the public) fund your stadiums, pay for your $8 beers and allow you to keep your monopoly, we expect a few things in return.

And turning a blind eye to rampant steroid use for a decade is not what we expect. The only reason the current steroid agreement is in place isn't because Donald Fehr is such a good guy. No, it is because of public pressure.

And tomorrow is a chance to get a few answers in this sordid mess.

I don't really care what guys like Giambi or even Bonds have to say. We already know they used steroids. (If you think they didn't, you think OJ is innocent and Charles Manson was framed.) The real answers will come from Panel Four:
Bud Selig, Commissioner
Robert D. Manfred Jr., Exec VP of Labor and Human Resources
Donald Fehr, Prick
Sandy Alderson, Baseball Operations
Kevin Towers, GM Padres

These guys have the best chance of saying who proposed what, when and the least likely to lie. We all know Canseco can't keep his own "facts" straight, but this group knows there is a serious price to pay when it comes to lying before Congress.

Let's hope Bud and Don feel some pain tomorrow, simply because they deserve it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Bad Seattle Times Articles

I'll post on the M's payroll issues later, but I couldn't help but laugh at the terrible article by Blaine Newnham in the Times on Randy Winn.

In his column titled "Why would Mariners want to lose Winn?" Newnham tries to make a case for the M's hanging on to Randy Winn- link

I have no problem with someone saying they like Randy Winn in an M's uniform. I have no problem with Newnham saying he thinks the M's should not trade Winn. What I do have a problem with is a senior writer talking about an M's player when they either:
A) Have no clue what is going on with the club
B) Choose to omit serious parts of the discussion

I'm not sure which one is applicable here, but regardless it is a complete waste of paper for the Times to print articles like this. It is a fluff piece of the highest order.

The reason the M's MIGHT trade Randy Winn is simple. He is one of the only tradable commodities on the team. You know this, I know this, every M's fan over ten knows this, but Newnham chooses to ignore this fact.

If the M's found a club that was willing to trade something of value for Winn, they should do it in a heartbeat. The teams pitching outlook is rather bleak right now. Moyer is old and on his way out, Sele is a short-term solution at best, Piniero is hurt... blah-blah-blah-blah. We know the story, the M' need pitching. They have Winn on the roster, but they also have this young and upcoming prospect named Reed who seems to do everything Winn can do, for less money.

I don't need to make a case for keeping Winn, that was Newnham's job. He writes the typical Seattle Times fluff-piece that says- "We lost 99 games, but gosh-darnit you've got to like this guy" column.

The fact is this team stunk last year, had terrible pitching and didn't do a thing about it during the offseason. On the same day the Times reports on the M's profits, Newnham chooses to write about what a good guy Randy Winn is.

I'm guessing Newhnam really doesn't care if the M's are any good this year.

And I don't care for the reporting of the Seattle Times.

Every time the phone rings and I get a special offer from the Times for home delivery, I love giving the rep an earful. I'll subscribe to the Times when you get some real Sports Writers!!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Anyone worried about the slow start?

I know it's only Spring Training, but with todays news of "Every-Day Eddie" sustaining yet another serious injury, it's getting hard to be optimistic about this team. When a team is 1-7 and has injury after injury, you have to wonder if this team can believe in itself.

Teams need confidence to win consistently. Teams develop confidence by winning. We all understand it is a delicate balance.

I am certainly glad Bob Melvin is not running this team. Hargrove has a real situation on his hands, and I'm glad we don't have a rookie manager in on-the-job training. Still, this team has the worst record in the AL in Spring Training.

I'd like to see this team get some good news, and get a little spring in its step.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Nice article on Felix

In case you missed it, RotoJunkie has an article on Felix that you should check out- link

"Marshall states that when pitchers land as Hernandez does and move their center of mass sideways, they compensate by pulling their pitching arm across the front of their body and that action puts undue stress on the Teres Minor muscle and the posterior capsule (in the shoulder)."

Lots of good work to backup what many of us have been saying- Felix is not ready to be a major league pitcher.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Angels playing hardball with Weaver

It's important to keep an eye on your division rival, especially when they are the odds-on favorite to win the division this year. The last thing the M's want to do is see the Angels get better, but they almost certainly will if they sign Jered Weaver.

Taken as the 12th pick in last years draft, he is a highly prized prospect who has been tough to sign with Boras as his agent. With the June draft coming up, the Angels have gotten serious about finding out if Jered wants to be an Angel- LA Times story

I love some of the quotes. Jered's mother, bless her heart, has this to say about the Angels insulting offer of $4 million to her son-

"I told [Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman] from the beginning that if they treated Jered fairly, he'd be an Angel, and they didn't treat Jered fairly. That's it."

Aparently Mom has a problem with the fact the Angels chose her son with the 12th pick in the draft, and then value his services at "only" $4 million, despite the fact he has done nothing but show potential regarding an MLB career. Of course if they offered him $8 million, like he wants, then they would be treating him fairly.

I applaud the Angels for not giving in to crazy tactics that Boras if famous for.

As an M's fan, I sure don't want to see him in an Angels uniform. It is probably best he re-enters the draft and Boston or NY can throw millions at Boras and his latest project.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Expectations for the M's this year

Now is the time of year we all try to guess how many wins our favorite baseball team will collect. National sportswriters, bloggers, casual fans and GM's all try to figure out what to expect from the assembled squads taking the field opening day.

There are two things that complicate trying to figure out the M's win column this year.

First, expectations depend on your idea of success. And success is a product of expectation.

Consider the Red Sox or Yankees. Fans of both EXPECT the playoffs this year. If either team were to win 89 games and miss the playoffs, fans would be extremely disappointed. In fact in NY, many people would lose their job. For many Yanks/Sox fans, the only question to be answered during the regular season is who wins the division and who wins the wildcard.

On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays would be THRILLED with 89 wins. Huge success, as would Baltimore. We all understand the baseball landscape is not level, and expectations for teams are different.

For the Mariners, you have to decide if last year was an aberration, or a true indication of how bad the team really was. We have heard Bavasi talk about "bad luck" and down years for players. We have heard others describe a team poorly put together- old players on the downslope of their careers, for example.

This affects how people view this years team. Casual observers like Rob Neyer and Peter Gammons look at the M's and see a team trying to come back from a 99 losses. Traditionally teams that lose this many games view the next years goal as simply getting to .500. That is why many baseball knowledgeable people like Neyer predict something like 78 wins this year. They see an improved offense, but no pitching changes and figure the M's will struggle. I mean, how many teams in baseball have almost $100 million in payroll and national expectations of 78 wins?

Other people closer to the M's might see last year differently. They see a club that started slowly and then sank after playing too many AAA callups. New manager, new sluggers and new year equals new outlook for '05. This type of observer predicts something like 85-88 wins for the M's. With a few breaks here and there, the playoffs are not out of the question.

Notice this has nothing to do with statistics.

Now for the second complication on expectations.

Namely, no one has any Friggin idea how this team will do. As an example, I present our very own Seattle Supersonics.

If you are not a basketball fan, a quick refresher. The Sonics have stunk the last few years. During the offseason, they made no major moves and were picked by everyone to finish near the bottom of the NBA standings. NO ONE would have been surprised if they won 30 games this year. I expected mid-20's in the win column. Not even the coach thought they would be any good this year.

In fact, you would be going out on a limb if you said the Sonics would compete for the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference. If you came out in print and predicted the Sonics would win 50 games, you would have been laughed at. There were NO statistics, no analysis, no history to draw on that would have shown any reason for the Sonics to be good this year. The general consensus among fans and media were cheap owners, suspect coach, bad front office etc.. The coach is in the last year of his contract, as is the star player (Ray Allen). There were 100 reasons why this team would be bad this year.

And yet, the Sonics aren't bad. In fact, they have the 3rd best record in the Western Conference right now. They could still win 60 games!! Winning over 50 is a given. The team no one thought would be good, actually is very good. So good, they have a realistic chance of playing in the NBA finals, with home court advantage!!!

Now I know basketball is not baseball, but who would have predicted the Florida Marlins WS a few years ago? Or Arizona?

The wonderful truth about the Mariners this year is no one has any idea how good they will be. Who predicted 99 losses for last year?


So guessing how the M's will do this year is just a fun exercise, but it is truly just a guess. It's not a question of "breaking it down" or looking at spreadsheets all day. There are simply too many unknowns.

If I had to guess, I'd say the M's will win between 82-84 games. But I admit, it is just a guess, as is anyone elses.

So enjoy the season, and if someone thinks the M's will win the World Series, don't laugh. Their guess is about as good as yours.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Trade Spiezio?

This is more about getting this off my chest- I occasionally see writers talking about trading Scott Spiezio. This reminds me of rumors last year about trading Bret Boone.

Let's get everyone on the same page: There is NO chance Scott Spiezio gets traded.


You couldn't trade Spiezio if you included Felix in the deal (well okay, maybe).

But seriously, the only way the M's are able to trade him is if they took something equally terrible in return. And there is no way that is going to happen; Bavasi has proven he is not that bad of a GM.

If a guy is a cancer or just rubs fans the wrong way (e.g. a certain player who used to play 3rd base for the M's two years ago) you might decide to trade garbage for garbage, so to speak. However, Spiezio is a nice guy who doesn't ruffle feathers. He tries hard, and if the M's lose 99 games this year it's doubtful anyone will blame him for it.

Even if Spiezio hits .350 off the bench, no one will want him. He is getting on in age, and has no upside whatsoever. He is an ok bench player for the league minimum, but is un-tradable at the wage the M's are paying him. I have no doubt if he hits like he did last year, the M's will simply release him.

So please sportswriters, can we please refrain from saying Spiezio and trade in the same sentence?